Brexit: Wave of hate crime and racial abuse reported following EU referendum

Purported responses to Brexit include signs saying 'Leave the EU, no more Polish vermin' being posted through letter boxes

Harriet Agerholm@HarrietAgerholm
Sunday 03 July 2016 22:19
A man tells another driver: 'Go back to your country'
A man tells another driver: 'Go back to your country'

More than a hundred incidents of racial abuse and hate crime have been reported since the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Many of the alleged perpetrators cited the decision to leave the EU explicitly.

One video, purportedly filmed in Hackney on the morning after the referendum, shows a man arguing with someone in a car before yelling: “Go back to your country.”

A Facebook album entitled "Worrying Signs" has been created to document alleged incidents in which people have been targeted with xenophobic comments.

One Twitter post by Kirsty Allan reports one Italian person being assaulted simply for asking someone how they voted in the EU referendum.

Abuse has been documented against those from within the EU - but also those from outside the union and those born in the UK.

Agata Brzezniak came to the UK on a scholarship from Poland when she was 17. She is now studying for a PhD in chemistry.

She has lived in the UK for eight years and told The Independent: "I have made the UK my home, it is where I have felt safe and appreciated

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"[Like] many Polish people in the country I feared the EU referendum result would cause an increase in intolerance, discrimination and racism, but I didn’t think it would become so aggressive and be so immediate."

A few hours after the announcement of the referendum, she says she was approached by a woman who asked her if she was Polish. When she said she was, she said the woman told her to be "scared" and that she must get a visa if she wanted to stay in "her" country.

"The vicious smile and the way she looked at me brought me to tears," said Ms Brzezniak.

In Huntington, Cambridgeshire, there have been reports of signs saying “Leave the EU, no more Polish vermin” posted through the letter boxes of Polish families on the day of the referendum result.

Local media reported the cards were also distributed outside primary schools. One Polish student said he “felt really sad” when he discovered the sign carrying the xenophobic message.

The cards were distributed in both English and Polish.

Cambridgeshire Police urged people to come forward if they know anything about the source of the notices.

In west London, the Polish and Social Cultural Association was vandalised with suspected racist graffiti on Sunday morning.

The Metropolitan Police are investigating what it has called "racially motivated criminal damage".

The alleged hate crimes occur just as Conservative Party chairwoman, Baroness Warsi, comes out against the "divisive and xenophobic" Brexit campaign.

Ms Warsi, who stopped backing Leave in favour of Remain because of the "lies and hate" spread the Brexit movement, said the campaign had left behind hostility and intolerance.

"I've spent most of the weekend talking to organisations, individuals and activists who work in the area of race hate crime, who monitor hate crime, and they have shown some really disturbing early results from people being stopped in the street and saying look, we voted Leave, it's time for you to leave.

"And they are saying this to individuals and families who have been here for three, four, five generations. The atmosphere on the street is not good."

Labour MP Jess Phillips said she would put forward a question to Parliament to find out how many incidents of racial hatred have been reported over the weekend compared to before the referendum.

Sarah Childs is one of the creators of the Facebook page documenting alleged incidents.

She told The Independent: "We have a lot of people asking us to just move on from the referendum result, but the people affected by these incidents can't move on while this is happening."